From waste land to wonderful experience garden thanks to Technics

A store's success is made by its relationship with its customers and neighbours. At a few OKay stores, we are reinforcing this bond by taking extra care of the green area surrounding the store.

Local anchoring

The project regarding experience gardens started in 2019. With the experience gardens, we want to involve customers and the neighbourhood more in the store: OKay is a local shop for good reason. We open up the garden to associations and use it to organise information moments. For example, last year locals were able to follow a training course on how to start an experience garden as an individual.

How did we start our experience gardens? Benny Van Gelder, landscape architect at Technics: "We have about 30 sites with pieces of land we are not allowed or able to use to expand the store or car park. In many cases, they're pastures that have no use - except for being mowed 3 times a year. Early 2020, the store in Rotselaar was the first we tackled. After that, Zingem and Desselgem followed.

Specific design requirements.

How do you design an experience garden? "Each site is different and this shows in the design as well. We look at the surroundings and choose which trees and plants to use based on that. For example, are we dealing with dry or wet soil, how is the acidity, is it a sandy soil or loamy soil, does it contain enough nutrients, etc."

And that's not all. "Each municipality in Flemish Brabant has its foster neighbours: species the municipality makes extra efforts for. In Rotselaar, the brown hairstreak is one of those foster neighbours. The blackthorn in our experience garden is the ideal spot for the orange butterflies to lay their eggs."

Even on sites that won't have an experience garden, we gear our green plan to the surroundings. In Oud-Heverlee, we are currently examining whether we can provide nesting sites for the swallows that live there in large numbers. With such initiatives, we contribute where possible to support all our neighbours - people and animals.

Biodiversity and climate change

We look at the past as well as the future. "Where possible, we try to reintroduce trees that appeared here a century ago. Due to the changing climate, this is not straightforward on all sites. Climate is always at the back of our mind when choosing which tree will go where. For example, 80% of the trees we plant is catalogued as 'climate tree'. They are trees that are able to withstand extreme drought, heat and that can survive even if they are underwater for a longer period of time due to floods.

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